Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #129– April 4, 2013

Dear Friends,

After passing two Senate committees, the voucher expansion bill (House Bill 1003) is on the Senate’s schedule today (Thursday) for second reading amendments. That would set up a final vote on third reading as early as Monday, April 8th. It is important that all Senators hear from passionate public school advocates this weekend before Monday about the damaging problems of HB 1003 summarized below.

Fourteen Reasons Why Senators Should Say “No!” to Voucher Expansion – House Bill 1003

Please share this list with Senators:

The overarching problem with voucher expansion is that it sustains the unrelenting attack on public education started in 2011, siphoning at least $22 million of public money from public school students to private schools and giving higher subsidies to parents to choose private schools. Specifically:

1) It removes the requirement that to receive a tax credit scholarship, a student must have been enrolled in a public school during the preceding school year. With this change, any student already in a private school can receive a tax credit scholarship from the SGO. Under current law, those receiving tax credit scholarships can get vouchers the next year. In this two year cycle, the requirement disappears that students must ever go to a public school before becoming eligible for a voucher, for those under the $84,000 income limit.

2) It is far worse fiscally than the original voucher bill passed two years ago. It ends the rationale that vouchers save the state money and brings direct new fiscal costs of at least $22 million to taxpayers. Putting this fiscal cost in perspective, $22 million to pay for vouchers for students who are already in private schools is more than Indiana spends now on Summer School ($18 million) and seven times more than Indiana spends on technology ($3 million).

3) It makes special education students already in private schools eligible for a voucher. An estimated 75% of the 4211 such students meet the income limit of $84,000 for a family of four. Fiscal cost (at LSA’s estimate of $4083 for each voucher): $12.8 million.

4) It makes siblings of voucher students already in private schools eligible for a voucher. Fiscal cost (projecting a sibling for just 10% of 9135 voucher students X $4083 per voucher): $3.7 million

5) It raises the $4500 cap on the Grade 1-8 voucher to $4600 the first year and to $4700 the second year. Fiscal cost (according to LSA): $0.4 million each year.

6) The above three points, totaling $17 million next year, will come out of the tuition support budget for all schools in the funding formula. There is no separate line item for vouchers.

7) This $17 million would siphon off one-eighth of the $132 million increase budgeted for all schools in the House budget, undermining the claim that education cuts from the Great Recession are being restored. Put another way, $17 million – one-eighth – would not go to the 1.04 million public school students who have still not had funding restored from the Great Recession but instead would pay for vouchers for private school students who are already in private schools.

8) It gives $5 million for additional tax credits for K-12 (Scholarship Granting Organizations) school scholarships, above the current $5 million. This means a doubling of foregone revenue to the state of Indiana to benefit private schools.

9) On its required August 1, 2012 report, the Scholarship Granting Organization in Fort Wayne reported spending 67% of its contributions on scholarships rather the legally required 90%. IDOE did not hold the SGO accountable to the law. Shouldn’t accountability to the law be verified in the current program before expanding it?

10) In its only filed audit dated June 30, 2011, the Scholarship Granting Organization in Evansville reported spending 34% of its contributions on scholarships rather than the legally required 90%. The audit showed that more was spent on salaries than on scholarships. IDOE did not hold the SGO accountable to the law. Shouldn’t accountability to the law be verified in the current program before expanding it?

11) On March 29, 2013, a Channel 6 investigation reported that a voucher school in Indianapolis, the MTI School of Knowledge, which has received thousands of dollars in voucher money, is being investigated for cheating on ISTEP. The voucher law does not clarify whether vouchers can continue to be given to schools in which cheating on ISTEP is confirmed. Shouldn’t penalties for verified cheating on ISTEP be added to the current program before expanding it?

12) HB 1003 removes the requirement to try out first grade in a public school before getting a voucher. For the first time, it defines kindergarten is as sufficient time in public school to qualify for a voucher.

13) HB 1003 allows a voucher even for kindergarten in attendance areas of 148 schools receiving an F using the flawed and widely disrespected A-F system. Fiscal cost (from budget officials in Tuesday’s testimony): S0.7 to $6.0 million. Shouldn’t we have a valid A-F system before we pass a law to use it for voucher decisions? This is a new amendment added by the Senate Education Committee and the additional fiscal cost is not counted in the $22 million estimate discussed above.

14) For the first time, the amount of the voucher for special education students will include the basic voucher (averaging $4083) plus state special education dollars “that a school corporation would receive under IC 20-43-7 for the student if the student attended the school corporation.” The state board is directed to set emergency rules to monitor special education services in private schools. This raises many questions about state supervision of private schools in providing special education services. Alert your special education colleagues to this issue.

Contact Your Senator and Other Senators!

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Please get involved this weekend by contacting your Senator or other Senators if you have not done so already.

The fourteen reasons stated above to defeat the bill are clear and powerful. The Channel 6 story about ISTEP cheating (reason #11 above) is a new story that many have not yet heard about.

This bill is a complex and multipronged attack on public education. If public school advocates are not heard clearly by their Senators this weekend, this damaging bill will pass the Senate next week.

The Senators all have many bills before them and many things on their mind. Only messages from you their constituents can make opposition to the voucher expansion bill a priority for them.

There are many Senators who do not like the fiscal costs of the expansion bill. In addition, 21 of the current Senators voted against the voucher bill in 2011. The list is attached. We need 26 votes against HB 1003. We need to work with each Senator, one by one, through emails, phone calls, and letters and in “Third House” and “Crackerbarrel” meetings this weekend. The final vote could come as early as Monday afternoon, April 8th.

Thanks for all you do for public education! With your work at the grassroots level, it is possible to defeat House Bill 1003 on the floor vote. Go to it!


Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who is vigorously working against voucher expansion in the Senate, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!

Go to for membership and renewal information.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.

No comments: